My Further Study into History

I have always been fascinated with history, and my library at home can attest to that. I have books on the Roman Republic, the battles of the Civil War, the Saxon Revolution, Napoleon’s Campaigns, the Teutonic Order, and the list can go on and on. It is a cherished moment when I can sit reading a book or magazine of a age long forgotten and try to imagine what the people and places are like. I think for many, ancient history is looked at with a jaundiced eye towards reality, in that many have a misconception of the emotional and psychological state of average inhabitants of the time. It is almost like watching an old black and white movie and thinking that is how the people of that era perceived the world around them. Unbeknownst to that misconception the early 20th century was alive with color and vibrancy. So to was ancient history! The lives of the inhabitants of that century, a hundred or two hundred folds back in time, had the same inspirations, thoughts, desires, and needs. Technology changes, but humanity rarely does.

Using this idea, I grappled with a number of ideas for my topic for the class. I truly want to use this study to build a foundation for later work. The research is not just one in a plethora of “must have” things todo that will be relegated to the back portion of my brain in six months, but rather it will be the foundation for all my future work in history. At some point one must determine the exact course of historical investigations, the plotting the willynilly course across the historical ocean is fun but in the end gets you no where. Thus, I need to peel away my love of Rome, English History, Japanese Dynasties, and get to the meat and potatoes of my study.

as an old student I have a much greater depth of knowledge than the average 20 year old college student. I have been across the country and to other parts of the world. I have read probably ten times as many books and more than likely seen a hundred times more movies than the average college student. I know the beautiful variety of history that is available from the colonization of the American West to the Chinese Emperors to the voyages of Magellan.

From a very early age, really not apparent to me at the time, I was fascinated with Non-European history. As a youth I would spend countless hours playing a game called Tekumel which was like Dungeons & Dragons but not set in a world of platemail, swords, and judo-christian magic but of strange bloody religions, stratified social groups, and technology devoid of the wheel and beasts of burden — this was the fantasy world of the Mesoamerica!

Later I stumbled on books filled with beautiful art, sculpture, and stone edifices created by mysterious peoples called the Olmecs, Toltecs, Maya, Aztec, and even the Incas. As I grew older and studied the civilizations and cultures the more I began to endear myself to the peoples of the stretch of formidable landscape: mist shrouded mountains, dry deserts, thick and lush jungles.

Thus I have decided to start my journey into understanding the Toltec, a culture germinating out of the upper Mexican highlands of the Tula and Hidalgo area somewhere around 800 to 1000 CE (AD) in what would be classified as the Terminal Class period — a time just prior to the Post Classic period known for the destruction of the Mesoamerican culture by the Spaniards. The Toltec were almost worshiped by the later Aztec culture and more likely feared by the settled Maya culture. The Toltec created incredible cities that rivaled anything in Europe, such as the glorious Chichen Itza which had a population of more than 100,000 inhabitants. Many think of the artifacts of the Toltecs as the crown achievements of the Maya culture.

On to this stage we see the growth of breathtaking art in the forms of chromatic stool pottery, friezes, statuary, stela, and plaster paintings. The question I pose is of these rich and powerful paintings did the color selection mean anything? Did the artist have something in mind when he made the background green, the head dress red, the throne a golden brown? Are the colors upon the art just as revealing to the culture of the Toltec as the inscribed hieroglyphics that can be found everywhere in their cities? Perhaps the artist was just being artistic and creative, dabbing color where he saw fit? Or perhaps there is a deeper meaning to this color? A cultural inclination of subtle nuance that elevates the color upon the vase or plaster wall that is yet to be understood. . . .

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